best progressive rock bands have proven time and again to be masters
at a range of genres. Those prog fans looking for a band with unbelievable
chops and musical vision should give a listen to ScienceNV.
The four-piece Northern California band turned heads around earlier
in 2018 with The Quest For Prester John Volume 1 and late in
2018 they fulfill the Prester John tale with The Quest For Prester
John Volume 2. The second CD picks up from where Volume
1 leaves off with a fresh range of mythological tales of Prester John
put to music. Actually, the tale of Prester John dates back 500 years
ago so Science NV really stretches the listeners musical imagination
with their Prester John saga put to music. ScienceNV puts the tale
to bed for the most part with Rodericks Tale and
following that 25 minute opus they complete volume 2 with a fresh
set of mostly instrumental music that mixes jazz-rock with progressive
rock and beyond. Where Rodericks Tale features several
guest vocalists and truly out-there lyrics, the remaining tracks are
truly mind-blowing in their scope. Prog fans may relate this album
to, believe it or not, the fabled Henry Cow album from 1975, In
Praise Of Learning, which combines antiwar lyrics with some truly
avant gard instrumental rock. As on The Quest For Prester John
Volume 1, the band lineup remains the same, including Jim Henriques
(guitars, vocals, keys), Larry Davis (guitars), David
Graves (keys, vocals) and Rich Kallet (drums). The lead
off piece on Volume 2, a multipart progressive rock epic called Rodericks
Tale, features some of the most impressive antiwar lyrics and
imagery ever put into a rock-based concept album and as the band's
scathing lyrics proves, the more things change, the more things stay
the same. Speaking about the complexities of putting the famous mythology
of Prester John into the concept of a rock track, the group's guitarist
Jim Henriques tells mwe3.com, I think were done with Prester
John. It was an exhausting effort, and we will likely try something
with less pressure next. Phew! That sense of sonic completion,
of a musical mission fulfilled, secures a place for The Quest For
Prester John Volume 1 & 2 among the most impressive sounding
and the most unique sounding rock albums of the 21st century. www.sciencenv.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
The Quest For Prester John interview Pt.2
Im so glad ScienceNV got to release The Quest For Prester
John Pt. 2. What parameters did you set forth on this second volume
and how is it different from Vol. 1? I know you mentioned that
the legends you write and sing about on both albums are arranged chronologically
but were going back 500 years or so
I guess well
cut you some slack! Lol Being that the time tunnel hasnt been
ScienceNV: One distinguishing characteristic between Volume
One and Volume Two is the change from a female protagonist,
Eloise, to a male protagonist, Roderick, in the long form pieces on
each album. There are similarities between the two tales: each opens
with an expository piece, has travel music, conflict pieces, a track
of introspection and reconsideration, and a decisive finale, but we
made certain compositional decisions to differentiate the two tales.
Eloise has more of a jazz influence whereas Roderick has more rock.
Eloise has many vocalists, most of them women, but Roderick has really
only one singer - himself. Each character has a different musical
spirit guide, an oboe for Eloise but a violin for Roderick.
And some differences are very subtle, like Eloises tale featuring
an electric bass guitar exclusively but Roderick featuring a bass
synth, and the guitar choices are different as well.
mwe3: You werent kidding about your influences from author
Robert Silverberg. I saw his prolific output of books, including his
Prester John book. Was the Silverberg book on Prester John the main
source of inspiration on Pt.2?
ScienceNV: The initial motivation for using Prester John as
a unifying theme was a lecture on the High Middle Ages by Philip Daileader,
a Professor of History at The College of William and Mary. The Silverberg
book and other references provided scenarios, but we did not slavishly
follow any one myth. Since Prester John is himself a myth, we felt
free to make up our own stories, only loosely attached to Prester
John, to suit our quest theme.
Rodericks Tale is amazing. You guys sound like Fairport
Convention or even later period Jethro Tull on that track but yet
its also prog-like in a futuristic way. The Song Of Roland
starts off Rodericks Tale. How does The Song
Of Roland fit into Rodericks Tale and is the
tale kind of Biblical as it kind of portends fighting between Christians
and Muslims and this is only in the first century! It all seems rather
scary and even Déjà vu like 1000 years later.
ScienceNV: The Song Of Roland is a 12th Century
poem; the Moors (Muslims) had occupied the Iberian Peninsula, Spain
and Portugal today, since the 8th century, and Christians warriors
such as El Cid had been trying to dislodge the Moors for 100 years.
They would finally clear Spain of Muslims in 1492. Rodericks
Tale doesnt specifically refer to that conflict, but instead
is based on Crusades in general, as does The Song Of Roland.
Further, the Tale is not intended to be an historical
depiction or portent. Rather, it is a cautionary tale for those who
put faith in distant rulers and look to them for moral guidance. To
paraphrase Adam Savage of the Mythbusters: I reject your morality
and substitute my own!
mwe3: The singers on both Prester John albums are great.
How did Science NV meet up with the singer David McCue? David did
a great vocal job on the Rodericks Tale track. Who
in the band wrote the lyrics for that track?
ScienceNV: We found David through a website called Bandmix,
and happily he turned out to live in the same town as Jim! By the
way, Jim wrote the lyrics for both Tales, except for The
Song Of Roland, of course, and Dave wrote the rest.
mwe3: Across The Sea is short but sweet. Is that
part of the track mostly instrumental and how does it fit into Rodericks
It is one of the travel pieces that populate both Tales.
In Farewell Roderick sails in a caravel to the east in
a quest for Prester John and his army who is fighting the Saracen.
mwe3: Is On The Road From Acre the calm before
the storm? Sounds like theyre preparing for battle on that track.
Very scary stuff and all very cinematic.
ScienceNV: Yes, youre right. Roderick is trudging from
Acre, bored, looking for a fight, a fight he will come to find he
mwe3: And then of course The Carnage At Al-Samij
is the actual war soundtrack to Roderick right? Does that
track depict mans endless thirst for war and fighting? So where
was Al-Samij? This is Science NV at their finest. True bombastic drama
and Jims vocals are brilliant. How did Science NV prepare for
that track? The soldiers tale seems to never end and never finds
peace within the violence. The vocals are somewhat masked on that
ScienceNV: Al-Samij is a totally fictional place, a mashup
of Jims nephew and nieces names, Jim and Sami (lol). It
is the ugliest thing weve come up with, a very difficult mix,
and the only vocals are the whispered dialog and the Deus les
Vult chant first heard at the end of Farewell.
mwe3: Rodericks Tale continues with On
The Silk Road To Bactria. Where is Bactria in the tale and how
does the Silk Road fit into the tale of Roderick?
The horse like galloping beat is truly eerie sounding.
ScienceNV: Bactria was a real place in Persia along the Silk
Road. Roderick is severely shaken by the carnage he witnessed, and
both he and his horse are failing. Nearly exhausted, he stumbles into
the Bactrian marketplace and is rescued by the Bactrians.
Rodericks Tale also features Am I Really Wrong?,
which kind of questions the overall violence of the story. How does
Am I Really Wrong fit into the tale? The questions of
why always seem to follow wars and violence. ScienceNV really rises
to the occasion with the instrumental parts of the song. Who is handling
the lead vocals on that track?
ScienceNV: David McCue did some great vocals here, and in only
a couple of takes. The track is Rodericks track of introspection
and reconsideration mentioned earlier; once he sees that the
Muslims in Bactria are not the devils he was told but instead are
friendly, sophisticated people, he wonders if he was really wrong
to come looking for a fight. The instrumental part really reveals
our influences, from Mahavishnu Orchestra to Genesis.
mwe3: Rodericks Tale concludes with the remorseful
A Good Man Goes Home. I would hate to have to fight a
war, even as I was drafted in 1972 and I was scared shitless at the
Hempstead Long Island draft board. How did you arrive with the concept
of A Good Man Goes Home? The soldier finally decries the
king who killed his enemies yet sent the soldiers to die. I guess
the moral is
(in your opinion)?
ScienceNV: Jim is especially proud of these lyrics. In short,
they say that following someone who purports to be above you is not
the path to being good. Rather, look inward, live your own life, dont
pick fights but be ready to defend yourself. There is an Ayn Rand
paraphrase in there: can your readers find it?
mwe3: Is Rodericks Tale the strangest epic
ScienceNV has ever done? Does that end the Prester John story or are
there more epics with guest vocalists like this in the future of ScienceNV?
ScienceNV: I think were done with Prester John. It was
an exhausting effort, and we will likely try something with less pressure
mwe3: How about the guitar sound on Roderick? Especially
the guitar sound that in ushers in A Good Man Goes Home.
What guitars is Jim featuring on the Prester John Vol. 2 album?
ScienceNV: A Good Man Goes Home has two prominent
guitars, Jims Danelectro 12-string and Larry's Gibson ES 135.
Mostly though, Jim is playing piano on the track, Larry is the guitarist
here. And, as mentioned earlier, the guitars used in each Tale are
different. Larry had his hands full playing bass and classical in
the Tale Of Eloise (from Volume 1), while Jim played a
modified Stratocaster, Carvin Alan Holdsworth model and classical.
What brought on A Byzantine Interlude and how does Prester
John fit into that Byzantine era? I know it was 800 years ago! And
youre certain Prester John existed? I heard some have denied
he even existed!
ScienceNV: The interlude is just that, a piece not critical
to the story line. Since the Byzantine empire didnt fall until
the Ottoman siege in 1453, and that Prester John legends went on well
into the 15th century, the setting gave Dave, the principle author
of the track, a chance to try out some period sounds. As for Prester
John himself, nothing we wrote is really about him; we were interested
in the quests for this mythical character, and what effect questing
for a legend has on the seekers.
mwe3: Thirty Ethiopian Ambassadors sounds like
YES meets Gentle Giant or something like that! Very full-bodied track.
That brings a kind of fusion edge to the track. How does Ethiopia
fit into the Prester John history? Ethiopia is a fascinating kind
of place! How about that guitar solo from Jim? What is the time signature
of that track? It breaks new ground for instrumental prog-fusion.
ScienceNV: Dave is the principle author of this too, a magnificent
effort! He has a way of phrasing that makes a track sound like it
is in an odd meter when mostly its 3/4 and 4/4. Jim played mostly
synths on this
about 15 ambassadors worth, and only played
the swirly guitar in the head. Larry played the cool guitar solo at
the end. As for its thematic element, allegedly 30 ambassadors went
out in search of Prester John but fell into petty arguments along
the way you can hear these in the synth back and forth.
mwe3: River Of Jewels has a great minimalist effect.
Its like a futuristic sci-fi soundtrack right? Did you take
a cue from the Prester myth for this track as well? The web site says
its a myth but it can also be true right? I think River
Of Jewels goes beyond prog and gets into some truly innovative
instrumental music styles. It just seems to coalesce perfectly. What
about the bizarre vocals that appear out of nowhere? Is this track
a good example of what Science NV do best? Sounds like mellotron as
well as very weird burbling synths!
We always like to include some ambient improvisation on our albums,
and River Of Jewels is the Volume Two effort. The strange
vocal is actually a wedding song (lol) sample in Arabic, nothing to
do with Prester John at all. Theres also some Tuva throat singing
mixed in. Not sure if this is what we do best, but weve done
a lot of ambient improv, whereas vocal tracks are new to us.
mwe3: The End Of A Legend closes off the album
with another vocal track. Sounds like Keith Emerson joining YES in
1975 and then the vocals come in. Its a rather jarring kind
of track. Are you writing about now or then? I find it odd now that
I lived in two different centuries! Yet I know in this life I wont
survive century 21. As you mention now how two centuries are now behind
ScienceNV: Daves masterpiece on Volume Two! As the title
suggests, the scene is near the end of the epoch, the last 200 years
of questing. The lyrics depict a soldier and his mates tired of slogging
and warring in the search for Prester John, but it is also an allegory
for all soldiers tired of fruitless warfare.
mwe3: What inspired the Vol. 2 cover art and who is the person
depicted on the cover? Can you compare the sentiment between the two
ScienceNV: The wonderfully talented Martha Diaz is the album
cover artist. She was both intrigued and disturbed by The Carnage
At Al-Samij and was inspired to give Roderick his forlorn continence.
Compare that with Eloise on Volume One, looking hopeful, with a downcast
Peter in the background.
So now that youve released the two volumes of the ScienceNV
Prester John tale, what other exciting music news lurks in the shadows
waiting to be realized by ScienceNV? Will The Quest For Prester
John prove an impossible act to follow? And how about new videos
for the album and possible live shows or am I asking too much of you
ScienceNV: I think were all going to have a nice rest!
As a small green Jedi master has been known to say, Always in
motion is the future! That said, one of the motivations for
the Prester John project was to collaborate, so there may be some
partnerships that yield more videos or even a live performance.